Forget the Twelve Days of Christmas. "Yule" need the full four weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas to enjoy all of the festive music, theater, ballet and more that we've rounded up. With six Nutcrackers, five holiday pops, four Scrooges, twin drag queens and one Red Ryder BB gun, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Keep in mind, pandemic protocols are in place at many venues this holiday season. Remember to bring your mask, vaccination card or negative test results and check ahead for other COVID guidelines.
Dashing through the shows
Seeing a holiday stage show is as much a part of the holiday season as carols, cookies and candy canes. This year’s lineup has some enchanting choices.
Inspired by the toy elf box set, "The Elf on a Shelf: A Christmas Musical" transports the audience to the North Pole and gives a glimpse of the lives of Santa’s Scout Elves. One elf is tasked with helping his human family remember the importance of Christmas cheer. Two performances only Nov. 26 at Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St.; 866-348-9738, bochcenter.org.
Gingerbread men flip midair. Toy soldiers march on thin wires while snowmen and penguins balance, jump and spin. It's all part of "Cirque Dreams Holidaze," Broadway director Neil Goldberg's psychedelic acrobatic re-imagining of the most wonderful time of the year. The fever dream of a show celebrates the season with more than 300 costumes, 20 acts and 30 performers from 12 countries who twirl, bounce and soar through the air to original music and seasonal favorites brought to life within a stage setting of gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering trees. Dec. 10-12 at Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St.; 866-348-9738, bochcenter.org.
The Tony Award-nominated musical “A Christmas Story,” about a young boy determined to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, will return to the Boch Center Wang Theater for 16 performances Dec. 10-19. An adaptation of the 1983 film that grew into a cult classic, the show made its Broadway debut at Christmastime in 2012. Based on the writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd, the musical also features many of the time-honored trappings from the film, including the fish-net adorned leg lamp, the pink bunny suit and the triple dog dare. Tickets for “A Christmas Story” start at $25 and can be purchased at bochcenter.org.
Giving off a radiant holiday glow, New Orleans-based Lightwire Theater brings its “A Very Electric Christmas” spectacle to Boston for some in-the-dark fun. The troupe, a finalist on “America’s Got Talent,” mixes electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and music ranging from Tchaikovsky to Mariah Carey to deliver a family-friendly holiday show. The lights go out Nov. 27 at Emerson Colonial Theatre, 106 Boylston St., Boston; emersoncolonialtheatre.com.
The Americana Theatre Company will present "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" as its holiday production. Performances will be given from Dec. 4 through Dec. 12 at the Plymouth Center for Performing Arts, 11 North St. Performed as a 1940s radio show with commercials, live sound effects and theater-goers as the studio audience, "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" tells the heartwarming tale of an angel-in-training showing a desperate George Bailey how one life can touch and transform so many others. Tickets are $35 for adults; americanatheatre.org.
For 51 years and counting, the Christmas Revels is one of the best-loved traditions of the winter holiday season in Boston. Using myth, story, song and dance, this year’s installment takes place in modern-day England at the George and Dragon, a 17th-century English pub famous for its annual Christmas carol party where old and new ways meet in songs and dances performed by the Revels Chorus and guest artists. Dec. 17-29 at Harvard University's Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, revels.org.
Ireland and Christmas seem to go together – maybe it's all the green – in "A Christmas Celtic Sojourn." In its 19th season, the show is a local crowd pleaser with its dynamic musical and dance performances. Hosted with easy charm by WGBH's Brian O'Donovan, the run will kick off with two shows at Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport on Dec. 14 before a final five-show run at Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston, Dec. 17-19; wgbh.org.
Set to Tchaikovsky’s romantic score, "The Nutcracker” ballet is a whimsical Christmas fantasy that tells the story of a little girl, Clara, who flies off to a magical land when her nutcracker doll comes to life. With such a fairy-tale story line, it’s no wonder “The Nutcracker” has become a holiday tradition, not to mention one of the few ballets to enjoy mainstream popularity. You can get your fill of sugar plum fairies and magical princes with several productions of "The Nutcracker."
Boston Ballet will return to live, in-person performances on Nov. 26 with its annual Thanksgiving-to-Christmas run of “The Nutcracker,” the granddaddy of holiday entertainment. With a full orchestra and featuring members of Boston Ballet, Boston Ballet II and Boston Ballet School students, the production boasts tons of action, bright colors, exciting special effects and a lively pace. It will be onstage Nov. 26 through Dec. 26 at the Citizens Bank Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. For more information, call 617-695-6955 or go to bostonballet.org.
Ninety students from the South Shore Ballet Theatre will don sparkly costumes to stage three performances of the “The Nutcracker,” Dec. 18-19 at Thayer Academy Center for the Arts, 745 Washington St., Braintree. A holiday classic, the ballet features the Sugar Plum Fairy, enchanted forests, dancing snowflakes and the magical Land of the Sweets. Tickets are $22; southshoreballettheatre.com.
The backdrop for Anthony Williams' "Urban Nutcracker" is modern-day Boston. The show, which celebrates its 20th year, blends the classic swells of Tchaikovsky with the rata-tat-tat of Duke Ellington. Set to music performed by a 16-piece live orchestra, "Urban Nutcracker" is anchored by classical ballet and performed by more than 150 child and professional dancers including the Tony Williams Dance Center in Jamaica Plain as well as dancers from a national casting call and guest artists. Combining tap and hip-hop in an urban-inspired mash-up, Williams, a former Boston Ballet dancer, tweaks the story and the characters each year. Dec. 18-23 at the Boch Center Shubert Theater, Boston; bochcenter.org.
Let the talented young dancers at Braintree Ballet lead you on a fantastical voyage to the Land of Sweets in the company's full-length production of "The Nutcracker," 6 p.m. Dec. 11 and 2 p.m. Dec. 12 at East Middle School, 305 River St., Braintree; braintreeballetcompany.com.
Drosselmeyer, the Snow Queen, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the other dedicated students from the International Ballet Academy of Norwell have been practicing their pirouettes in preparation for a magical show Dec. 11 at Scituate Center for the Performing Arts, 606 Chief Justice Cushing Highway, Scituate, ibanorwell.org.
Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy journey through The Palace of Sweets and Santa's Workshop in Dance Workshop of Hanover's "Holiday Spectacular." Performances are 4 p.m. Dec. 18 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Whitman-Hanson Regional High School Auditorium, 600 Franklin St., Hanson; $22-$25 at 781-829-0390; tututix.com.
The national touring production of the acclaimed “The Hip Hop Nutcracker” dances into town on New Year’s Day for a pair of performances that merge modern dance moves with Tchaikovsky’s whimsical score. Emerson Colonial Theatre is at 106 Boylston St., Boston; emersoncolonialtheatre.com.
Holiday pops on parade
Holiday pops concerts offer a symphony of holiday treats. And while the Boston Pops might be the granddaddy of them all, there are plenty of other options.
Conductor Steven Karidoyanes leads the Plymouth Philharmonic in the orchestra’s annual Holiday Pops. Tenor Matthew Anderson and soprano Kristen Watson return to sing holiday classics from Irving Berlin’s Broadway musical “White Christmas,” inspired by the 1954 film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. The Plymouth Community Intermediate School’s sixth grade chorus will sing “Somewhere in My Memory” by John Williams from the film score to “Home Alone," and “We Need a Little Christmas” from the Broadway musical “Mame.” Plus, Santa Claus will lead the March of Toys parade. Performances are at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11 and 3 p.m. Dec. 12 at Memorial Hall, 83 Court St., Plymouth; plymouthphil.org.
For the Holiday Pops, maestro Keith Lockhart wears a stocking cap, Symphony Hall is decorated in festive finery, a different guest each night narrates "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and everyone – including Santa Claus – joins a singalong at the finale of a great party. Lockhart leads the orchestra in 34 concerts over 23 days from Dec. 2 through Christmas Eve; bso.org.
It's an evening of holiday favorites when the Quincy Symphony Orchestra presents its annual " 'Tis the Season," featuring performances by the John Adams Orchestra and the Quincy High School Combined Choral Group, Dec. 2 at Quincy High School, Lloyd Hill Performing Arts Center; quincysymphonyorchestra.org.
Hear selections from Glinka, Tchaikovsky, Handel, Massenet, Adams, Anderson and Respighi and a singalong of favorite Christmas carols when the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra performs its holiday concert "Joyful Noise." Jin Kim conducts. Dec. 11 at Thayer Academy Center for the Arts, Braintree; atlanticsymphony.org.
The Southeastern Philharmonic presents two Christmas concerts this season: Dec. 4 at the East Weymouth Congregational Church, 1320 Commercial St.; and Dec. 5 at Whitman Town Hall, 54 Whitman Ave.; southeasternphil.org.
Merry music and comedy
Do you hear what I hear? It’s a stocking full of holiday songs. Whether it’s a rousing rendition of “Jingle Bells,” a quieter “Silent Night” or the sexy “Santa Baby,” music is as much a part of the season as mistletoe, fruitcake and reindeer.
Broadway star Liz Callaway, who sang the Oscar-nominated song “Journey to the Past” from the 1997 animated film “Anastasia,” will perform a holiday show at 8 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy. The show is presented by Quincy’s JM Productions and students in its “Rising Stars” program will also sing. Callaway is a Tony nominee and Emmy winner for her children’s show “Ready to Go.” She made her Broadway debut in Stephen Sondheim's “Merrily We Roll Along.” She has also starred in “Baby,” “Miss Saigon,” “The Look of Love,” “The Three Musketeers,” and for five years appeared as Grizabella in “Cats.” Tickets cost $35 and include a post-show meet-and-greet with Callaway or $25 for general admission; ticketstothecity.com/jm
“A Holiday Show with Storm Large” isn’t your run-of-the-mill "Jingle Bells" Christmas performance. The Pink Martini vocalist from Southboro, who competed on the reality singing competition "America's Got Talent," is known for her provocative charm, powerhouse vocals and big personality. She'll spice up the holiday season with her take on songs including “Hallelujah” and “Sock it to Me, Santa.” The show starts at 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Spire Center, 25½ Court St., Plymouth, $40.50; spirecenter.org.
Emerson Colonial Theatre is a hub of holiday musical performances this winter. “Hamilton” Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr.’s “Christmas Tour” takes the stage Dec. 9. Saxophonist Kenny G performs holiday hits Dec. 17. Emerson Colonial Theatre is at 106 Boylston St., Boston; emersoncolonialtheatre.com.
Michael Sweet, lead singer/lead guitarist of the Christian rock band Stryper, will sing Christmas classics with a roster of “friends” including Charlie O’Neal and Brian Templeton of the Delta Generators; Dec. 15 at the Spire Center for the Performing Arts in Plymouth; spirecenter.org.
Comedian and filmmaker John Waters (“Pink Flamingos") is coming to town with his more-naughty-than-nice one-man show, “A John Waters Christmas.” The mirth and merriment gets underway at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Mass. Ave., Boston. Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at berklee.edu/BPC.
For those who have never had the opportunity to see Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Bette Midler or Elton John live in concert, the next best thing is coming to town. Celebrity impersonators the Edwards Twins put their hilarious stamp on the Santa season with three shows Dec. 10-12 at the Spire Center in Plymouth; spirecenter.org.
If you like your Christmas filled with sass and class, then check out the all-female band Divas With a Twist singing holiday tunes Dec. 18 at the Spire Center; the party repeats Dec. 21 at The Company Theatre, Norwell, companytheatre.com.
Three ghosts and a good time
What's Christmas without the Charles Dickens seasonal favorite "A Christmas Carol"? Shed your inner Scrooge and see the classic story of greed and redemption performed by a handful of regional troupes.
The Company Theatre's spirited "Christmas Carol" is both a comfort and a joy. The production is directed by longtime artistic director Zoe Bradford with choreography by Sally Forrest and music direction by Steve Bass. The show runs from Nov 26 to Dec. 19 at The Company Theatre, Norwell; companytheatre.com.
Go for tradition when Troy Siebels and his troupe present their lavish and innovative adaptation of the Dickens classic, but stay for the music, namely the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, New England's largest theater pipe organ containing more than 2,400 pipes. Dec. 15-23, Hanover Theatre, 2 Southbridge St., Worcester; thehanover theatre.org.
There’s a good reason to drive to Beverly: the 30th annual production of “A Christmas Carol” at the North Shore Music Theatre. The troupe has found the perfect balance of music, special effects and good old-fashioned storytelling in a production that’s become a true, enduring holiday tradition. It will run Dec. 2-23. Tickets start at $28 and can be bought at nsmt.org.
The Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" is a timeless tale that Neil McGarry turns on its head with a one-man performance. In the well-received show, McGarry performs all of the characters in this Victorian masterpiece. Ross MacDonald directs and the show is a one-night-only performance Dec. 8 at the Spire Center for the Performing Arts in Plymouth; spirecenter.org.
A Choral Christmas
The Choral Art Society of the South Shore will present its holiday concert, “A Winter Day,” at 4 p.m. Dec. 5 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 465 First Parish Road, Scituate. Artistic Director Danica Buckley will conduct the community-based choral group in work that celebrates the beauty of winter with accompaniment provided by Ellyses Kuan on piano and Julie Reimann on cello. Tickets are $25; choralartsociety.org.
Pilgrim Festival Chorus, a nonprofit community chorus based on the South Shore, will present two holiday performances this season. The first, “Remembering Christmas Past,” explores five centuries of seasonal music. The show is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 4 p.m. Dec. 5 at St. Bonaventure Parish, 803 State Road, Plymouth. Adult tickets are $20. For its second holiday production, co-Artistic Director William B. Richter leads the chorus in carols and selections from Handel’s "Messiah" in the annual performance “Messiah and Carol Singalong.” The show is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Church at the Green, 6 Plympton St., Middleboro. Adult tickets are $10; pilgrimfestivalchorus.org.
If you've never seen the Handel and Haydn Society perform live, then Christmas is the time to do so. The performance of Handel's "Messiah" is a 168-year-old tradition, running Nov. 26-28 at Symphony Hall in Boston. The performance marks Harry Christopher's return to Boston for his 13th and final year as artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society. The concerts will feature Carolyn Sampson, soprano; Reginald Mobley, countertenor; James Way, tenor; and Roderick Williams, baritone; handelandhaydn.org.
Local favorites - Edaville and more
Kick off the holiday season where it all started in Plymouth at America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Celebration with a parade Nov. 20. The parade steps off at 10 a.m. from Plymouth Rock and continues around Water Street to Court Street and ends at the corner of Court and Nelson streets. This year’s parade will air live on WCVB Channel 5; usathanksgiving.com.
Quincy’s Christmas Celebration is a longtime South Shore tradition. Tree lighting is at 5 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Hancock-Adams Common between the Church of the Presidents and Old City Hall. Santa Claus and his elves arrive via helicopter at Pageant Field on Nov. 27. The annual parade steps off at noon Nov. 28. This year’s theme is "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
You know the holiday season is here when the Enchanted Village opens on Nov. 11. It’s a vintage collection of New England and Christmas scenes that Jordan’s Furniture saved (and then refurbished) when it was auctioned in 2009. At Jordan’s Furniture, 100 Stockwell Drive, Avon; jordans.com.
The night shines at La Salette Shrine, 947 Park St., Attleboro, where displays of 400,000 lights spread over 10 acres tell the story of Christmas and remind us of the true reason for the season. The theme of this year's celebration is "Love Is Born." The free illuminations are open from 5 to 9 p.m. daily Nov. 25 to Jan. 2. lasaletteattleboroshrine.org.
Holiday lights will be shining brightly at the Marshfield Fairgrounds for a show comprising nearly a million lights spread out along a driving course that takes about 20 to 25 minutes to travel. Gaze at giant snowflakes, candy canes, snowmen and arched pathways while lights pulse to Christmas classics such as “Feliz Navidad” and other holiday favorites. There will be new displays this season. Past installments were as large as three stories high and 300 feet wide, including holiday scenes such as a massive toy factory with lit-up gifts flashing in different spots to move down a conveyor belt, and a snowman who shoots a basketball over passing cars. The show is primarily focused on Christmas but also has displays for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Near the back of the fairgrounds last year, there was a massive “Happy Hanukkah” sign in white and blue. "The Marshfield Holiday Light Show" is produced by BOLD Media. The cost is $23 per car in advance or $25 at the door. Nov. 19-Dec. 30; holidaylightshow.com.
At "Winterlights" in Canton, tens of thousands of lights are strung up around the gardens of the Eleanor Cabot Bradley Estate, with music echoing off the trees. This is a walk-thru event. There are themed sections along the way, such as Candy Cane Lane leading up the home’s front door, where the trees are wrapped in red and white lights. The Christmas in the Caribbean section features Santa Claus lounging in a hammock. A Fairy Garden has thousands of tiny green lights projected into the trees that appear to dart around. There’s an arched tunnel made up of long rows of lights, and a large Christmas tree made entirely of lights. Nov. 26 to Jan. 9. 2468 B Washington St., Canton. This event usually sells out quickly. Tickets cost $20 and $25 for adults and can be purchased at thetrustees.org.
Millions of lights will be glowing when the "Christmas Festival of Lights" at Edaville USA in Carver opens Nov. 12. The event, which was canceled last year due to coronavirus concerns, continues through New Year’s Day with the exception of Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, when it will be closed. Christmas coaches will take passengers through a holiday setting featuring an explosion of lights and whimsical holiday displays. Kids can also take vintage amusement rides throughout the park. Thomasland and DinoLand will remain closed for this event. Edaville is at 5 Pine St., Carver. Tickets cost $30 and $35 and advanced purchase is required at edaville.com.
A mile-long drive-thru holiday lights experience will run Nov. 19-Dec. 24 at Gillette Stadium. The event, "Magic of Lights," is a dazzling showcase of themed light displays. Attractions include the 12 Days of Christmas, Toyland and the Enchanting Tunnel of Lights. New this year are Prehistoric Christmas, Big Foot Monster Trucks and the Snow Flurry Tunnel. The showstopper is the Illuminating Mega Trees, boasting 40 feet of dancing lights synchronized to popular holiday tunes. "Magic of Lights" will be open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. Gillette Stadium is at 1 Patriot Place, Foxboro. Tickets start at $40 per car and must be purchased online in advance at MagicOfLights.com.
A stroll through "Gardens Aglow" at the Heritage Museums & Gardens, 67 Grove St., Sandwich, will add extra twinkle and sparkle to your holidays. It opens Nov. 26 and will run each Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4:30 to 8 p.m. through Dec. 26. Adult tickets cost $18 for members and $20 for nonmembers, and can be purchased online at heritagemuseumsandgardens.org.
The historical King Caesar House on Powder Point in Duxbury will be dressed to impress for its 50th annual Christmas tours, Dec. 11-12 for public tours and Dec. 13-14 for private group tours. This year’s theme is “Gold,” to commemorate the golden anniversary of celebrating the holidays at the King Caesar House. Reservations are required at duxburyhistory.org.
Editor’s note: Try as we might to make this list complete, we know it is not. To give us notice of your holiday show or event so we can publish it on our website, email us at email@example.com.
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Reach Dana Barbuto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Christmas 2021: What to see from 'Nutcracker' to 'Christmas Story'